The Knicks don’t let a Raptors lose their lead

The locker room was disappointing but undefeated. The Knicks’ eight-game winning streak had just been snapped by the underperforming Raptors.

While the team’s first loss since December 3 was being dissected, players were already looking forward to Friday night. After moments of bitter defeat, they were eager to put it behind them and turn their focus to the bulls.

“We took a step back tonight, I took a step back tonight,” Galen Bronson said after one of his worst performances as Nick. “We can’t take two, three, four, five steps back. We have to take one more step forward, and get ready for Friday.”

As impressive and impressive as the eight-game winning streak was for head coach Tom Thibodeau’s team, and certainly changed the narrative in the early part of this season, it will only matter if the Knicks can build on it. If they can maintain this high level of play. If they can continue to defend, share and release the ball like they did in those eight wins.

This is certainly what the Thibodeau robot preaches. Even during the winning streak, he downplayed the momentum the Knicks (18-14) were building, keeping the only thing that matters is preparing for every game the same and continuing to improve. He does not want his players to think about what they have achieved or to look too far ahead.

RJ Barrett and the Knicks are not commenting on Wednesday’s loss, which ended their eight-game winning streak.
New York Post Photo/Robert Sabo

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“Make our corrections,” he said, “get Chicago ready, and be ready to go.”

There were positives to be taken from the loss, despite a lot going wrong. Quentin Grimes, a major switch for this last round, had a sprained right ankle that Thibodeau believed was minor. The Knicks were hit hard on the glass, allowing 16 offensive rebounds, and the turnover difference was minus 12. They had no answer for Pascal Siakam, who went for 52 points. But they were still there at the end, rallying from a double-digit deficit before going cold in the final three minutes.

“At the end of the day, I still think we play really good basketball, and we play really well on both ends of the court,” said RJ Barrett. “We need to keep that going.

“We play together, we move the ball around. Everyone learns about each other, they spot each other. You know when someone is going to attack, when someone is going to shoot.”

A lot has changed since the Knicks’ previous loss. Grimes became an invaluable cog, Barrett found his game, and Julius Randle showed glimpses of his pandemic self. Defense is starting to develop into a strength. The Knicks are 10th in the league in offensive rating (113.4) and 9th in defense (110.8). Once last in the NBA by 3 points, they hit 25 and climbed 33.4 percent. They are sixth in the Eastern Conference, just two games in the losing column behind the fourth-place Nets.

“The most important thing I took [from the streak] Can we do that. Barrett said. “We showed it. So there are no excuses. We just have to stick together.”

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